Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Super Wizard Stardust!

How does one explain the work of Fletcher Hanks. One of the earliest of the comic book artists, by all accounts (and few of those there are) Fletcher Hanks was one miserable son of a bitch. He abandoned his family which he had abused and disappeared from their lives. His comic book work is infamous and has been revived to some extent in volumes from Fantagraphics. He created several characters in many genres in a career which seemed to span just two years, but hectic years they were.

The Super Wizard Stardust is the character (along with Fantomah perhaps) that Hanks is most famous for. Reading the Stardust stories really is an experience. Throw out what you expect from a superhero narrative. While couched in a naive science fiction framework, the closest approximate to Stardust which occurs to me is DC's The Spectre. 

Stardust is all-powerful for all intents and purposes. He appears when danger threatens and disappears when the threat is removed. He has no inkling of a personal life, though a few stories do suggest barely the notion of a love interest which is never pursued. 

Stardust is not human, rather he is an alien who lives on a planet or star (called both) and comes to the rescue on cue. His powers are whatever is required to remove a threat. There is no tension in a story because the outcomes are never in question. Villains will rise, misbehave and will suffer for their crimes. 

In the final analysis, Stardust is just weird, so weird and offbeat that it becomes compelling in its own bizarre way. Rules of narrative construction are not so much violated as ignored and what we are left with in yarn after yarn is a morality play of cosmic proportions which march forward with an unrelenting rigor.

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